Rare Rides: A Base Model Nissan Sentra Wagon From 1982

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

What’s Datsun, Nissan, and Sunny all over? It’s this pristine Nissan Sentra wagon, hailing from 1982.

The Sunny line started back in 1966 as a compact car which touted fuel efficiency and economical motoring as its most important qualities. Intended as a competitor to the Toyota Corolla, it was introduced the very same year.

A second generation launched for 1970, and in export markets was known as the Datsun 1200. This generation came to North America after Datsun made changes to interiors and bumpers to comply with new U.S. government regulations. The 1200 strengthened Datsun’s foothold in North America, with the company shifting about 44,000 units of its 1200 model each year between 1971 and 1973.

The third-generation Sunny was ready for 1974, now known to Americans as the B-210. Datsun kept the original Sunny’s characteristics intact, as the B-210 was one of the cheapest and most fuel-efficient cars American consumers could buy.

In 1978 a new Sunny debuted around the world, wearing a body which gained five inches in length over its predecessor. North America waited a little longer, as a new 210 (no B) was not available until 1979. This generation ran through 1982, when both Datsun and the Sunny had a last-of moment.

As the new model replaced the old in the latter half of 1982, it took with it the Datsun name, rear-drive layout, and the 210 moniker. This new vehicle was now front-drive, and called Sentra. It was sold by Nissan, and made available at your local Datsun-Nissan dealer. Available in coupe, hatch, sedan, and wagon formats, the Sentra had between two and five doors. It was the second model to utilize the no-numbers naming scheme introduced by Nissan in 1981, when it debuted the new Stanza at the New York Auto Show.

Along with front-wheel drive, the Sentra switched to a more modern overhead cam-style engine, rather than the prior 210’s overhead valve arrangement. All engines had four cylinders, of 1.5, 1.6, or 1.7 liters in displacement. Two manual transmissions were available (three- and four-speed), along with a three-speed automatic.

The new Sentra was immediately successful, once again offering low prices and fuel-sipping economy figures. In its first full year of sales for 1983, Sentra moved an impressive 209,889 examples. That figure made it the eighth most popular passenger car in America.

Before long, Nissan found itself preparing for the next generation of Sentra. Production moved to the company’s brand new Smyrna, Tennessee factory in 1985. In that year, the new factory built the old B11 Sentra as it readied itself for the incoming B12 Sentra in 1986. It’s worth mentioning the Rare Rides series has featured a B12 Sentra before, in the form of an imported right-hand and four-wheel drive Sunny sourced from Japan.

Today’s Rare Ride is from the first year of B11 Sentra production, 1982. In wagon format and with an automatic transmission, it’s traveled just over 55,000 miles. It seems to have the base 1.4-liter engine, and few power options to match those basic steel wheels. The ad copy has so many typos I can’t really read it, but eBay says the price is $2,999.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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8 of 46 comments
  • JimC2 JimC2 on Jan 16, 2019

    During the 1970s fuel crisis there was an ad for the 1200 about it using one gallon per day (I suppose for a 10-15~ish mile daily commute). (In the fourth-last paragraph, did you mean to write "Stanza" or "Sentra?")

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jan 18, 2019

    God, what a miserable car. A rubbery shifter to access all one-point-four liters of power, 155mm wide rubber on 13" steel wheels, big rubber bumpers hanging off the ends, rubber flooring inside, rubbery vinyl on the seats...and you up front wishing you'd worn a rubber so you didn't have to trade in your old fun car for this one with its proper rear seat, Japanese reliability, and sensible fuel economy.

    • See 1 previous
    • -Nate -Nate on Jan 18, 2019

      @jatz Some folks just hate super base cars . When the ex and I vacationed in Hawaii we rented one of these for $10 / day, yes it was incredibly cheap but it had no troubles keeping up with traffic and climbed the Pali (steep highway over the middle of the island) easily , we just left the windows open (no AC) and I kept the engine on the boil, my only complaint was crappy AM radio and I guess it was noisy , I didn't really notice/care . -Nate

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X As much problems as I had with my '96 Chevy Impala SS.....I would love to try one again. I've seen a Dark Cherry Metallic one today and it looked great.
  • Susan O’Neil There is a good reason to keep the Chevrolet Malibu and other 4 door family sedans! You can transport your parents and other somewhat handicapped people comfortably and safety! If someone can stand and pivot you can put them in your car. An armrest in the back seat is appreciated and a handle above the door! Oh…and leather seats so your passenger can slide across the seat! 😊Plus, you can place a full sized wheelchair or walker in the trunk! The car sits a little lower…so it’s doable! I currently have a Ford Fusion and we have a Honda Accord. Our previous cars were Mercury Sables-excellent for transporting handicapped people and equipment! As the population ages-sedans are a very practical choice! POV from a retired handicapped advocate and daughter! 😊
  • Freddie Remember those ads that say "Call your doctor if you still have...after four hours"?You don't need to call your doctor, just get behind the wheel of a CUV. In fact, just look at one.I'm a car guy with finite resources; I can't afford a practical car during the week plus a fun car on the weekend. My solution is my Honda Civic Si 4 door sedan. Maybe yours is a Dodge Charger (a lot of new Chargers are still on dealer lots).
  • Daniel J Interesting in that we have several weeks where the temperature stays below 45 but all weather tires can't be found in a shop anywhere. I guess all seasons are "good enough".
  • Steve Biro For all the talk about sedans vs CUVs and SUVs, I simply can’t bring myself to buy any modern vehicle. And I know it’s only going to get worse.